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Local News

Family seeks closure after I-80 death

Parents search for semitrailer driver involved in fatal hit-and-run

Aaron Scofield with his dog Violet.
Aaron Scofield with his dog Violet.

Jim and Linda Brodnicki knew something wasn’t right on the morning of Jan. 18.

Their son, 31-year-old Aaron Scofield, was born and raised in Joliet, but was living in Chicago with his wife, Roxanna, who was his high school sweetheart. He worked at the Amazon Fulfillment Center on Briggs Street in Joliet.

“Aaron was very easygoing. He loved his family, loved his dogs, adored his wife, he was just a good kid, he really was,” Jim Brodnicki said.

Linda Brodnicki said Scofield’s job at Amazon was a step toward returning to his Joliet roots.

“It was just the first step of them trekking their way back to Joliet,” she said. “He figured once he had a stable position here for work, eventually they could start looking into moving back.”

Jim and Linda Brodnicki learned that January morning that Scofield was in a car crash. Scofield’s wife called them about 6:30 a.m. and told them he was at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox.

“Of course, on the way to the hospital we are hearing the traffic reports of a death from this accident and, of course, your stomach just begins to sink,” Jim Brodnicki said.

As doctors soon confirmed, Scofield died after he was hit. He left work early that morning before running errands and heading back to Larkin Avenue to get on Interstate 80 East.

“Unfortunately, that day, he was able to leave early, but he stopped into Joliet and did some stuff and then got on the road,” Linda Brodnicki said.

Illinois State Police said a 43-year-old Joliet man was driving a 2005 Toyota 4Runner east in I-80’s center lane, when he swerved to avoid Scofield’s 2011 Kia Soul that was stopped, facing north, without any lights on. The front of the Toyota struck the front driver’s side of the Kia, ejecting Scofield.

But this didn’t make sense to Scofield’s stepfather, Jim Brodnicki, who previously worked for an insurance company.

“For Aaron’s vehicle to be in the position that it was, it didn’t add up,” he said. “We had our suspicions that there was another vehicle involved.”

When Scofield’s car was released to the family shortly after the crash, the Brodnickis took the car to Copart in Chicago Heights to clean it out. While his wife surveyed the inside, Jim Brodnicki took pictures of the outside.

That’s when he saw tire rotation marks on the front side passenger door, confirming his suspicions about the involvement of another vehicle.

“The height of the tire marks clearly indicated [it was a semitrailer] and explained why the passenger side airbags were deployed,” he said.

A couple of weeks later, police notified the parents another vehicle had in fact been involved. A semitrailer hit Scofield’s car, spun it and left it stalled on I-80 before the second fatal collision.

The semitrailer driver left the scene without speaking with police.

Police told Jim Brodnicki the semitrailer driver hit the brakes lightly before hitting Scofield’s car. Brodnicki said that means the driver knew what he or she did.

“Until this driver is caught, we’re not going to have closure. We need closure,” he said. “We need to know, why did this driver leave? We know they hit the car. Why didn’t they pull over?”

Jim Brodnicki said he is convinced that someone knows something about the semitrailer, whether it’s drivers who witnessed the hit-and-run or fellow semitrailer drivers. He said traffic was fairly heavy that morning about
4 a.m., when the crash occurred.

Truckers “are responsible people. It’s not easy for them to be on the road either ... there’s such a tight brotherhood amongst truckers,” Jim Brodnicki said. “They themselves don’t want a truck driver like this out on the road.”

Nearly four months later, that driver has not been identified.

“We’re checking periodically with the state police,” Linda Brodnicki said. “Eighty is just horrible, and so is 57. The state police are pretty backed up every time they have an accident, so that stops any investigations on anything else. From what we understand, they were still finalizing 2017 accidents that were under investigation.”

State Trooper DeAnn Falat said there are no updates in the case.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Illinois State Police District 5 at 815-726-6377.

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